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Tilting at Windmills

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September 6, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

GIVING VOICE....I've read about this before, but Tyler Cowen quotes today in more detail from a new book about the differences in average voice pitch among women in different countries:

Women in almost every culture speak in deeper voices than Japanese women. American women's voices are lower than Japanese women's, Swedish women's are lower than American's, and Dutch women's are lower than Swedish women's. Vocal difference is one way of expressing social difference, so that in Dutch society, which doesn't differentiate much between its image of the ideal male and the ideal female, there are few differences between male and female voice. The Dutch also find medium and low pitch more attractive than high pitch.

Which goes to show how powerfully culture worms its way into things that are widely assumed to be mostly biological. Most people believe that women have higher pitched voices as a matter of simple physiology, but it ain't so. It's mostly cultural, and anyone who watches old movies can attest to how the ideal of female voice has changed over the past 70 years.

Also: this is one more data point demonstrating why the Netherlands is the best country in the world. It's more than just the tulips.

Kevin Drum 12:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (125)

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Comments

I'm not sure if I'm in favor of lower pitched voices in general. I'll give you squeaky high pitches are obviously irritating beyond comprehension, but mark me down as agnostic as to whether lower, deeper voices are better for women in general.

Posted by: Steve W. on September 6, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not dumb, but I can't understand why she walked like a woman and talked like a man.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 6, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I thought it was a matter of mimicing childrens voices.

Posted by: jimmy on September 6, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

So in the Netherlands do Gay men also have lower pitched voices? Whats the relationship between female and effeminate voice pitch?

Posted by: cynical joe on September 6, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's more than just the tulips.

Yes. It's also the weed.

Posted by: dj moonbat on September 6, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Japanese women often use two different voices, one for everyday life and one for work -- especially in retail and service industries. Some of the department-store greeters are ridiculously high-pitched. It's not unusual for managers to ask female staff to use higher voices, which would elsewhere be pretty quick grounds for a lawsuit.

Posted by: Matthew B. on September 6, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum >"...this is one more data point demonstrating why the Netherlands is the best country in the world. It's more than just the tulips."

Oh yea, lots of very attractive women on bicycles (health anyone ?) & few of them afraid of showing their intelligence

More of that please !

"...the art of life is more like navigation than warfare..." - Alan Watts

Posted by: daCascadian on September 6, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Women in almost every culture speak in deeper voices than Japanese women. American women's voices are lower than Japanese women's,

Which goes to show how powerfully culture worms its way into things that are widely assumed to be mostly biological.

How do you know that? It might be the genes of the Japanese race are different than the genes of the white race. I don't think it's surprising differences in race cause differences in intellectual and physical attributes.

Posted by: Al on September 6, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I'm no expert in this, but aren't the Dutch taller than the Swedes who are taller than the Americans who are taller than the Japanese? Isn't there some physiology going on here?

ps--I realize this is generalizing and underinformed but look at where I'm posting.

Posted by: Colin on September 6, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"The white race?"

Posted by: Matt on September 6, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

"How do you know that? It might be the genes of the Japanese race are different than the genes of the white race. I don't think it's surprising differences in race cause differences in intellectual and physical attributes."

Genes of the Japanese and genes of caucasian races are different??? Holy shit... Tell me something I didn't know already. Al, your great for useless comments. How about defferences in intellectual and physical attributes between parties in America. By far, liberals are smarter and better looking.

Posted by: dee on September 6, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Most people believe that women have higher pitched voices as a matter of simple physiology, but it ain't so". Of course it is so. Kevin, this is simply a ridiculous assertion. On average women do have higher pitched voices than men - are you really disputing that? Dutch women have lower pitched voices than Japanese or American women, but they're still higher pitched than Dutch men, a lot higher. Here is a link to a Dutch talk radio station - http://www.nederland1.nl/ - listen for 5 minutes and tell me you can't tell the difference between the men and the women. It's not even close.

Of course culture often plays a very large role in exaggerating or minimizing basic physiological differences. It is important to recognize the many ways men have used culture against women under the pretext of "women's nature", but it does no good over the long run to pretend that basic biology is a mere social construct.

Posted by: Vanya on September 6, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Al, you're great for useless comments.

I thought that was a parody Al. He's become so ridiculous you can't tell the difference anymore.

Posted by: klyde on September 6, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

This is nonsense. There's nothing wrong with a woman having a high pitched voice.

Posted by: Betty Boop on September 6, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ironically, seventy years ago squeaky female voices were considered okay, whereas they're not, now. The femme fatale would have the husky voice while the perky would have a squeaky grate...

Yet the lower end has been trimmed, too.

Such to my chagrine.

Posted by: Crissa on September 6, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's not unusual for managers to ask female staff to use higher voices, which would elsewhere be pretty quick grounds for a lawsuit.

That's actually commonplace in the US, too - well, maybe not the asking, but the expecting. And it's true; people respond better to a light, high perky voice than something lower.

Which means if you've allergies one day, you're sunk for keeping up your 'greeter' or 'phone' voice.

Posted by: Crissa on September 6, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I bet the patriarchal creationists will dispute this.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on September 6, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Women in Holland are also taller on average than women in other countries but the Dutch men are about the same as their neighbours, which means that the difference in height between Dutch men and women is smaller than anywhere else (this is anecdotal evidence because I am just too damned lazy to do the research to back up this observation).

I don't know if height makes a difference in voice pitch but I do know that my pitch changes when I speak different languages. It's much higher in French than it is in either German or English.

Posted by: Michele on September 6, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

It's more than just the tulips.

Yes. It's also the weed.

I thought it was the dykes. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Posted by: the white race on September 6, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

people respond better to a light, high perky voice than something lower.

If by "respond better" you mean "more likely to go into a rage", then I agree with you.

Posted by: Disputo on September 6, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Vanya-- male voices have a significantly lower range than women, but the overlap is substantial. In general, most women are capable of speaking at the same vocal pitch that the average man uses in conversation.

You can tell the difference because of timbre, not pitch. The male voice tends to resonate more deeply.

Posted by: ajl on September 6, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if women smoke more in those countries.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on September 6, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

What about Kerri Shrug? Is she the height of whatever evolutionary facet we are talking about?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on September 6, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Higher-pitched (girl-like) voices are advantageous for women - or required by bosses - only in the pink-collar ghetto: greeters, receptionists, secretaries, etc. Professional women who want to move up the ladder must cultivate lower-pitched voices in the same way and for the same reason they must de-feminize their hair, makeup and clothes: the more man-like they appear and behave, the more likely they are to get promoted.

No surprise that women in the society with the most stringent gender roles have the highest-pitched voices.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on September 6, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's more than just the tulips.

And legalized sex trade.

A Republican cannot exist in Netherlands, almost by definition, as all his warmongering will be quickly dissipated in the premature comings and and goings in the red light districts of The Hague.

Posted by: gregor on September 6, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

as far as drawing cutural conclusions based on measurable qualities of speech, its important to note that some languages are simply more pitched than others. in most asian languages, for example, pitch and its trajectory are much more meaningful than english. therefore to speak correctly it required more careful attention to pitch (both relative pitch and absolute).

so the whole notion of cramming everyone onto the same continuum of pitchedness seems kinda absurd.

Posted by: sparkalloid on September 6, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this the same study that says women in positions of authority generally have lower voices than other women?

Al, I would be careful with the white "race" and japanese "race" comments. I believe that most studies indicate "Race" is, at best, a superficial and meaningless cultural construct.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 6, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

What about Kerri Shrug? Is she the height of whatever evolutionary facet we are talking about?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on September 6, 2006 at 1:11 PM

You mean Kerri Strug, and anyway, that reference is so 1996. How about Kristin Chenoweth, a giant talent in a 4'11" pixie body (with a speaking, albeit not singing, voice to match)? Conversely, 6'8" Anne Donovan, US National women's basketball coach, does not speak in a basso profundo.

Posted by: Vincent on September 6, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

sparkalloid: in most asian languages, for example, pitch and its trajectory are much more meaningful than english

As in Chinese and most other Sino-Tibetan languages. But _not_ in Japanese, which is in a different language family.

Posted by: alex on September 6, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

But Kevin's absolutely right-- there is definitely a cultural component to the question of voice pitch. Anyone who has walked around an affluent American college campus or on the streets of Soho New York or another fashionable district of a major American city can't help but notice the strident, high-pitched nasality that many affluent young American women seem to affect. I've noticed this in the last 12 years. I am originally from anglo- Canada, and it is much less prevalent there. And when I hear young European women interviewed, or overhear them in the streets when I visit western Europe, I also notice that the vocal pitch is much lower for young women. I think there is a dollification--an infantilization of young women going on in this country and in certain Asian countries, Look at the clothes, for goodness sake. Many Asian and American women still dress like teenagers when they're 30!

Posted by: nana_karina on September 6, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, The White Race, what do I know about what the Dutch know about dykes?

Nothin'.


But when it comes to Dutch and dikes (courtesy of the unassailable fount of knowledge Bill from Portland Maine), whoa-hoa: http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/9/6/74419/22716.

s/o/t: curiously, regarding 'the white race' -- an old saying from the plains of Nebraska was 'The Irish and the Dutch, they don't amount to much,' meanwhile the Germans and Czechs were okey dokey. Go figure.

Posted by: MaryCh on September 6, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe language plays a role? When I speak French, my voice changes quite a lot. To be sure, it's a much sexier, more pleasant sound than my normal English-speaking one!

I always thought I was stuck with my voice for biological reasons. Then a friend of mine went through gender reassignment, and I realized it's something you can change with effort. Since I've never liked my voice, I'm trying to hear how I sound and adjust it.

Posted by: snarktini on September 6, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if anyone has noticed that in the last ten years young women's voices have become shriller, their enunciation more awful, and their vocalizing more nasal. There is nothing so mortifying as trying to go through a fast food drive through and try to figure out what that shriek coming out of the speaker means: "Wecum tawennies canivodo please?" And that's clear enunciation.

Posted by: Carol on September 6, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Language--hah! The smart assertive women I know who are not afraid of their authority all have deep resonant voices, while the spoiled, idiotic little cookie cutter girlie girls I see running around American campuses and the streets of NY in their flip flops and pink velour sweatshorts all project their voices from between their eyes. It's an affectation or a horrible learned habit that they think is cute.

Posted by: sophie forrester on September 6, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Carol,

Re:"in the last ten years young women's voices have become shriller, their enunciation more awful, and their vocalizing more nasal"

My take is that it's the combination of MTV and LA's Valley/mall-speak. With drive-thru eateries I look at it as Thursday nite surprise when I say, "Yup," but when talking to a loan officer it drives me crazy.

Posted by: Tea on September 6, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Japanese also used to bind women's feet that were felt to be too large, in leather thongs, so that their feet would appear to be more feminine. The result was large number of women with chronic foot and spine disorders. Some were crippled as a result of the procedure. There is an excellent book about the practice, called Waiting for the Footbinder.

Such bizarre, culturally distorted views of male-female differences, are no doubt behind the gender differences in Japanese voice pitch, as well.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 6, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Re:"in the last ten years young women's voices have become shriller, their enunciation more awful, and their vocalizing more nasal"

Somewhere, Helen Kane is smiling.

Posted by: Vincent on September 6, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

"people respond better to a light, high perky voice than something lower"

Then explain Kathleen Turner. And Lauren Bacall.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on September 6, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I actually spent a good bit of time around native Japanese speakers who also spoke English in college, both in Japan and the US. One very common observation that I and others made right away was that women who spoke both tended to speak in a noticalby higher pitch when speaking Japanese compared to English. Doing any kind of language practice where you switch back and forth regularly could be rather jarring. My fluency with Japanese dropped off to a level now that I can't say for sure that it's not an artifact of the language. It does tend to be a faster language, but as someone else pointed out it not tonal like other asian languages. For what it's worth, I don't remember anybody ever pointing out anything similar with American women or men from either country.

Posted by: NewMike on September 6, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I've a friend whose normal speaking voice is as gravelly as Eugene Pallette's. He (my friend) was told long ago that he couldn't be a public speaker with a voice like that but that he could be trained to speak in a more "normal" voice. They said they coud cut out almost all feedback on his voice via the ears and then habituate him to speak in a menu of different ways. He could choose. He didn't return for a 2nd session.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 6, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

The Netherlands rock!

You're absolutely right - best country I've ever been in!

Posted by: Chuck on September 6, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

"in the last ten years young women's voices have become shriller, their enunciation more awful, and their vocalizing more nasal"

It is certainly noticeable in American pop music. Today's music scene doesn't seem to have any young Chrissy Hyndes or Deborah Harrys - women who could sing effectively at the lower end of their range.

Posted by: Vanya on September 6, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

The Japanese also used to bind women's feet that were felt to be too large, in leather thongs, so that their feet would appear to be more feminine.

It was the Chinese, not the Japanese, who practiced foot binding.

Posted by: "Fair and Balanced" Dave on September 6, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Another person who'd agree with Kevin Drum's point: Eddie Murphy.

But, seriously, trying to pretend that most of the differences are not physiological is pretty, well, Lysenkoist.

Posted by: TLB on September 6, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

The Clockwork Orange used to be great at soccer too. Oh well...

Few quick factual comments.

If I remember the New Yorker article correctly, the Dutch men are the tallest in the world, and the Dutch women too. But oddly, height isn't such a big deal as it is here.

The Dutch language is very guttural. German with a throat disease is a joke the Dutch don't find hysterical - but it's true. And yes, as I Dutch speaker, when you speak it, I think that your voice does drop a few notes.

But I don't buy the argument that men's and women's voices are naturally the same pitch. First, because men are on average bigger. And second, men generally have Adam's apples and women don't. And those Adam's apples give more space for the voice to resonate. And my memory is that Dutch women definitely sound different that Dutch men.

BTW - it you want to try something truly Dutch, taste "drop" Dutch salty licorce, which they love and everyone else in the world finds loathsome.

But the general point is still valid, soceity can have a huge influence on certain things. And according to the New Yorker article the average Japanese man is now taller than the average American. It's the health care.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on September 6, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone noticed the S. California girl baby talk voice of Ms. Sheehan. To me it is annoying, and I have noticed this voice being used by many now middle aged women. I do not mean to pick on Ms. Sheehan, who I admire for her courage and correct response in her opposition to the war, but she has received a lot of voice time in the media. Professional women do not use this voice.

I had a lover many moons ago who had the sexiest voice of any woman I have ever known. It was not husky, but it was low. She deliberately stopped using the nasal whine so many American women keep from their teen years. A lot of American men also use this voice. I think it is a stress indicator. I worked my way through college telemarketing and developed a relaxed telephone voice that is still complimented.

Re: national average height. The New Yorker had a lengthy article a couple of years ago about how height is a product of good nutrition and a good indicator of national health. The US used to be one of the tallest nations, but is now becoming one of the shortest in the developed world.

Posted by: Hostile on September 6, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

The idea that Dutch gender roles are less fixed, or less differentiated, than American ones is debatable. (Dutch women are considerably less likely to rise to high management in business, for instance.) But spoken pitch is indisputably affected by cultural norms. I think the low pitch of Dutch women's voices may be influenced by the Dutch identification of feminine sexiness with Southern, Mediterranean earthiness since the late '60s. Blond squeaky ethereality is considered somewhat common there.

Just anecdotal. But I've dated a lot of Dutch women.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 6, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, we're so much more evolved than the japanese. glad we don't allow fundamentalist, medival-age servitude of women in the name of god or anything like that, or have male-dominated legislatures that try to control women's lives and bodies, or have states that refuse access to contraceptives even in cases of rape or incest.

it's much easier (and comforting) to decry the injustices of other countries, it helps feelings of prevent shame and culpability that come from thinking about your own.

i think footbinding was done by some segments of chinese society. get your stereotypes together, man!

Posted by: whatever on September 6, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, we're so much more evolved than the japanese. glad we don't allow fundamentalist, medival-age servitude of women in the name of god or anything like that, or have male-dominated legislatures that try to control women's lives and bodies, or have states that refuse access to contraceptives even in cases of rape or incest.

it's much easier (and comforting) to decry the injustices of other countries, it helps prevent feelings of shame and culpability that come from thinking about your own.

i think footbinding was done by some segments of chinese society. get your stereotypes together, man!

Posted by: whatever -corrected on September 6, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe someone already covered this, but American women of Asian heritage have lower voices than Japanese or Chinese women. So you can nix genetic differences as a primary explanation for vocal differences.

Re salty licorice -- they love it in Denmark too. Where the women also speak in low tones.

Posted by: Barbara on September 6, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

One very common observation that I and others made right away was that women who spoke both tended to speak in a noticalby higher pitch when speaking Japanese compared to English.

Among the Japanese exchange students I have hosted, my family has observed that as well - to the point where when asked, one girl said that in her English classes, she was trained to use a deeper voice. The boys weren't. The girls were.


And according to the New Yorker article the average Japanese man is now taller than the average American. It's the health care.
Posted by: Samuel Knight on September 6, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Average? More likely the large Mexican immigrant population. Those folks are SHORT!

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on September 6, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Hostile: "I do not mean to pick on Ms. Sheehan, who I admire for her courage and correct response in her opposition to the war, but she has received a lot of voice time in the media. Professional women do not use this [So. California baby-girl] voice."

You're right. But then, she's not a professional. I had the honor and privilege of meeting and talking with her earlier this year, and I found her to be a most authentic and heartfelt activist.

brooksfoe: "But I've dated a lot of Dutch women."

Well, let me tell you, I was in Amsterdam a few times, and the stories I coul--oh, I better not. ;-)

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 6, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

samuel knight: "... society can have a huge influence on certain things. And according to the New Yorker article the average Japanese man is now taller than the average American. It's the health care."

We have a couple million Japanese tourists that visit Honolulu every year (I live about five miles from Waikiki). I certainly don't see that the average Japanese tourist is taller than the average American tourist. And they certainly aren't wider.

However, about 20% of our state population is Japanese-American, mostly of third and fourth generation. You can definitely see that they are noticeably taller (by several inches) and have a larger body frame than Japanese tourists, who often look almost frail in comparison. I'd think that diet, and not health care, was a major factor in that difference.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 6, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Donald - good catch. The article was talking about the average height for people in their twenties. And made a point that the younger Japanese towered over their elders.

And Osama - the article compared native borns. Good point too.

Also didn't know the Danes liked salty licorce! Thought it was just a Dutch vice.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on September 6, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

It is certainly noticeable in American pop music. Today's music scene doesn't seem to have any young Chrissy Hyndes or Deborah Harrys - women who could sing effectively at the lower end of their range.

Nellie McKay?

I have a deep voice, and I find that people respond really well to it, especially over the phone, when they don't see that I'm just a short, chubby redhead. It gives me a gravitas that, say, a Katie Couric lacks.

Posted by: maurinsky on September 6, 2006 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yeh, the Netherlands is a truly great country- it was in the Netherlands that Theo Van Gogh had his throat cut on a public street by a Muslim angry over something Theo had done. And the practitioner of the Religion of Peace wasn't even a terrorist- if there are such things. Denmark is a nice place too unless a newspaper publishes pictures of the Prophet and angers his followers- it happened once and riots broke out all over the uncivilized but religious world. And the Muslim denizens of the Paris suburbs got in a lot of practice with rioting last year. Hamburg, Germany is a nice place- that where Mohammed Atta and his friends plotted to fly some planes into buildings in the US. Liberals are still sorry at whatever the US did to make the guys so angry at us.

Thankfully, I live in America, where nothing bad has ever happened.

Posted by: maurinsky on September 6, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Was there ever a woman with a sexier voice than Lauren Bacall in "To Have and Have Not" or "The Big Sleep?" No squeaky, chirpy or perky stuff from Bacall. Hers was a low, sultry, cigarette coated voice that promised much and gave nothing away. And, remarkably enough, she was a star in the benighted 40s and 50s, when American women were all kept in chains, naked, barefoot and pregnant, and oppressed almost continuously. What this means for Kevin's thesis that low female voices correlate with women's liberation, I don't know.

Posted by: DBL on September 6, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The notion that The Netherlands is the 'best country in the world' is ridiculous. It's a lovely place for a vacation, but the Dutch were, and are, slave-traders. Good at PR, hypocrasy and theft -- and hydraulic engineering -- but not much else.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

The set of popular (famous/well-known) Brazilian singers back at least to the sixties seems to me not to include a woman above contralto or at most a mezzo, nor a man below a high baritone. This is not a country where sex differences are suppressed or unimportant.

Posted by: Michael O'Hare on September 6, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

The difference with Japanese women is obvious. Whenever I meet a woman I assume to be from Japan, but it turns out she's japanese-american, I'm always struck by the voice- it's much-much lower than those of a japanese citizen. The difference is striking.

Posted by: The Tim on September 6, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

"Was there ever a woman with a sexier voice than Lauren Bacall in "To Have and Have Not" or "The Big Sleep?"

Kathleen Turner in "Boby Heat":

"You aren't too smart. I like that in a man."

and

Matty: "My temperature runs a couple of degrees high, around a hundred. I don't mind. It's the engine or something."
Ned: "Maybe you need a tune up."
Matty: "Don't tell me. You have just the right tool."

Posted by: arkie on September 6, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

ither - were and are slavetraders?

What the heck are you talking about?

mhr - you really want to compare murder rates with Europe?

Nice to know that our trolls are still showing how angry they are.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on September 6, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Samuel Knight on September 6, 2006 at 4:45 PM

Try history. If the 18th century Atlantic won't do, perhaps agricultural policy in Java in the 19th might be of some avail. Or Srebrenica in the 20th. The point is simply that the Dutch are utterly unreliable. Excuse me, not quite true. As the proverbial Cretan, they can be counted on to lie when opening their mouth.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Samuel Knight:

Well, the Dutch undisputedly were *Calvinists*, and vigorously exported the religio-cultural disease around the world. The English Puritans who set the dominant American cultural pattern set off from Holland, as they had fled English persecution.

Almost as if modern like in The Netherlands is lived in direct reaction to that legacy ...

As for vocal pitch -- the real test of physiology vs culture is with singing voices, not speaking voices. There are as few (intact) male sopranos in the world as there are female baritones. So squeakiness may well be a cultural affectation, but men and women have decidedly different vocal apparatuses, as well.

Do women even have a head falsetto?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

like = life

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm, I wonder how a vocal coach (for singing) would respond. I'm a natural soprano - can get up to F an octave above the treble clef, but can only go two or three notes below middle C. That isn't social conditioning - it's just how much I can physically relax my vocal cords, and my range starts moving up if I sing an hour a day for a while.

But then my voice goes down when speaking French, and goes up when I'm talking to annoying customers. Most of the women at work do it, probably subconsciously. I think it's because it makes someone sound a little stupid, so what you're saying sounds more plausible, plus men are less likely to yell at someone who sounds girly.

Posted by: Hillary on September 6, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Bob - a very few women have falsettos, far fewer than can hit tenor range. Four years of top choir in college, and we only had one woman that entire time with a falsetto.

Posted by: Hillary on September 6, 2006 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the Dutch undisputedly were *Calvinists*.....
Almost as if modern like in The Netherlands is lived in direct reaction to that legacy ...
rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 5:01 PM

It's not a reaction, but a continuation. In many ways The Netherlands is not 'modern' at all. Like the Japanese, the Dutch very easily adopt technology and the superficial accoutrements of other cultures. But this is indeed superficial. The country is largely frozen in the early modern attitudes of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was, of course, the first of the nation states. It hasn't changed much. Calvinism still rules, very literally, both the state and the individual.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

In USAmerican culture, my observation is that women who speak like little girls were likely sexually molested as little girls. WRT other cultures, YMMV.

Posted by: Disputo on September 6, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Not sure I can share the unrequited Holland-love; as a Dutchman, I'll only really start getting proud once we've had a woman PM, a significant number of women in charge of businesses and a proportion of women university professors that reflects women's proper share in society - right now we're at the level of Botswana there. And sadly, we have our share of Islamophobe fearmongers too, just read Michael van der Galien at the Moderate Voice blog. Or on second thought, don't.

But to point to Srebrenica or the past involvement of the Netherlands in colonialism in the slave trade is not a defensible argument; that's like pointing to Abu Ghraib or the Confederation as indicative of the American national character. And at the very least, our government had the decency to step down as a result of the parliamentary inquiry into Dutchbat and Srebrenica. A mostly symbolic act, to be sure, but I'll bet ither wouldn't be satisfied regardless.

Posted by: Jameson on September 6, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Jameson on September 6, 2006 at 5:33 PM
our government had the decency to step down as a result of the parliamentary inquiry into Dutchbat and Srebrenica. A mostly symbolic act, to be sure,


Right. Within days of an election whose date had been set for months. This so-called principled fall of a government is an old trick in The Hague. The Christian Democrats pulled precisely the same unconvincing nonsense with land-reform in the seventies.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Ither, I agree.

I don't think most people would like living in the Netherlands. The weather is awful, first of all. It rains practically every day, and there are lots of clouds.

Secondly, people are not as nice as they appear when you are a tourist. They aren't too fond of foreigners, but won't say so to your face.

Thirdly, even very close friends will screw you over about money but you are expected to forget these types of transgressions (I've noticed the same thing about Americans, by the way)

Then, there's the fact that no Dutch people really like to travel. I used to work for Philips in Aachen, Germany and they couldn't get any Dutch employees to travel the 2 hours by train or car to get there, so they had to hire outside consultants to do the job.

They can also be very anal-retentive and cheap, as evidenced by the co-workers who would re-use their tea bags multiple times, then tear the tea bag apart to put the staple from the tag in the metal recycling bin, the tea in the compost bin, etc or the co-workers who would offer you cookies from a box, tell you to take one, then slam the box cover on your fingers.

A lot of people I know didn't enjoy living there - Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Frenchmen, Germans and Brits.

Posted by: Michele on September 6, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Cripes, I had this lovely picture of The Netherlands in my head... wait a second, it's actually on the wall of the guy in the cube nearby...

But thanks to ither I now know that the reality is pretty much illustrated by considering Sarumann and his Orcs in their nightmarish workshops. They "very easily adopted technology" YEAH IN ORDER TO SPLIT YOUR HEAD OPEN!!

Damn and they are such tall evil guys, too. Bomb immediately!!

I wonder if Peter Jackson created that scene with CGI or if he just flew to Amsterdam for the real thing?

/snark

Posted by: doesn't matter on September 6, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

That's some really serious anti-Netherlands prejudice you're hawking there, bud. It's completely absurd to conflate modern Dutch attitudes to, say, soft drug use and pornography, to anything *remotely* Calvinist. If The Netherlands is culturally crypto-Calvinist as you seem to imply, then the entire country labors under the spiritual death sentence of preterition.

Hillary:

My favorite woman singer, and least in the somewhat popish field, is Kate Bush. She has this utterly astounding four-octave range. In the early part of her career, on her first album especially, she was a sopranino Munchkin. Later albums revealed a Joni Mitchell-like contralto that cut into midrange baritone. Is her top range falsetto? I don't know enough about singing technique to be able to tell.

I only know her range is like nothing I've ever heard from a pop/art rock singer of either sex.

Save maybe Captain Beefheart. But he, of course, doesn't count :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Michele:

One of my housemates loves to go on about being Pennsylvania Dutch (ethnically German, of course), and is one of the more eccentric people I've ever known, let alone lived with.

He has all the stereotypical behavior and character traits: extreme rigidity, cheapness to the point of irrational anal retention (he'll drive 20 miles to save three dollars), incredibly nosy and "Dutch uncle" like about your personal business, in order to give you suggestions on how to live better (like him).

If he wasn't so proud of this stupid heritage of his, I'd write it off to just personal quirks. But it's remarkable how what you decribe about Dutch natives seems to fit the way he behaves ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I only know [Kate Bush'] range is like nothing I've ever heard from a pop/art rock singer of either sex.

Nina Hagen.

Posted by: Disputo on September 6, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo:

I've never heard any Nina Hagen, but when she was (briefly) a New Wave It Girl never heard anything about her having a massive range, either ...

I'll have to look her up.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

If The Netherlands is culturally crypto-Calvinist as you seem to imply, then the entire country labors under the spiritual death sentence of preterition.
rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 5:44 PM

Quite, if you believe in that kind of thing.I believe the Dutch also exported it to 20th century South Africa. Regarding soft-drugs and prostitution and the like: these are examples of salubrious outcomes for ill-understood reasons. The Dutch are not tolerant; they are indifferent. Besides, these activities hereby become taxable, even if technically illegal (For the non Dutch, I kid you not).


Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

re Srebrenica, it's why I said it was a mostly symbolic gesture. But at the very least, it was made. Should Dutchbat have stood up to the Serbs more forcefully ? From a 1000 miles away, absolutely yes. But our then government put underarmed troops into an indefensible enclave and lefit it up to UNPROFOR command to call in air cover, which they didn't. To generalize the conduct of the Dutch troops there under those extreme circumstances as emblematic of a 'Dutch character' as a whole is not a tenable proposition.

Posted by: Jameson on September 6, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

yes, Bob, unfortunately it's true. The Netherlands is a country where the neighbours won't mind if you have sex with your wife in the garden, but they will never forgive you for not recycling that Kleenex you put in the trash. Kind of like California, but with lots of rain, non?

And for all the folks who just idolize Europe out there, I defy you to tell me if you have ever seen a place with a "Need a penny, take a penny, have a penny, leave a penny" bowl near the cash register in any country of Europe. The Europeans I have described this North American custom to have been amazed by the fact that nobody takes the whole bowl

Posted by: Michele on September 6, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

What, precisely, is the practical distinction between tolerance and indifference?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, I do have to agree with the characterization of our famed 'tolerance' as indifference. However, I think that still beats active hostility in most cases, for instance when it comes to religion, sexual orientation and the like.

Posted by: Jameson on September 6, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

I've never heard any Nina Hagen, but when she was (briefly) a New Wave It Girl never heard anything about her having a massive range, either ...
rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:03 PM |

Her singing was as if an updated version of Strauss' Elektra. Impressive but exhausting.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Michele:

Just for the record here, you're ethnically Francophone Canadian, correct? I know you currently live in Germany.

As for the "take a penny -- leave a penny" American custom, well, I'd put it down to American plenitude vs European scarcity. In England, you won't find any local inner-city bodega with *two* huge lit coolers stuffed with every imaginable variety of soft drink, either. In Europe, they have something called "iceboxes." Sandwitches are also legendarily tiny compared to your typical American hoagie.

Sure, this is going to cultivate a kind of hyper-social anal retention based on scourging one's neigbors for being trivially wasteful. But I'd argue that this is different than in California (or the Pac Northwest), because here, it's affected. In Europe, it's more an expression of survival skills that have virtually atrophied in Americans.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Offhand I'd say tolerance implies acceptance while indifference does not. And yes, the latter is better than active hostility, as long as it's lucrative. And if one can pretend it's principle, well ah, a consummation devoutly wished in this best of all possible worlds.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

Well, when it comes to implacably angst-y, cabaret-inflected and classically-trained Germanic art rock singers -- nobody will ever hold a candle to the GDR refugee Dagmar Krause :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

I don't think that parses. It's not possible to be "tolerant" at all, if tolerance implies accepting virtually any cultural practice not one's own.

You don't need to "accept" Islamic customs to be genuinely tolerant of Muslim people. If one claims that one "accepts" these practices while shunning them in one's own life, I'd call that a politically correct affectation.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

After you've had phone sex with me, Kevin, you'll never go Dutch again.

Posted by: Pam Altas on September 6, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

No, Bob, I am not ethnically French-Canadian. I am French and Canadian and German.

My mother is from France, my father is from Germany and I was born in Canada. I have 3 passports.

Posted by: Michele on September 6, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1:

Yes and no. What you are proposing is a reworking of separate and vertically integrated subcultures (the infamous 'pillars'), a system that did/does provide for a certain amount of social tranquillity. It also implies utter disengagement vis a vis the individual.It further leads, and in the Netherlands led, to a system notorious for its close-mindedness and crampedness (When one thinks of a Dutchman, it's the coffee-broker, not Erasmus, who comes to mind). Again, the exception to this is technology or, otherwise put, ways and means.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Michele:

It would have been *really* cool if your mom or dad came from an entirely different continent.

Talk about insurance for when the next world war breaks out :)

What's your native language? You don't seem to have any of the usual qirks of non-native English speakers ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I do. I just went to a job interview in Zurich where I was interview by some Brits (there are a lot of Brits in Zurich, by the way). After weeks of only speaking French and German at work, I had problems speaking English. For example, when asked how well I spoke French, I answered: "It's my maternal language" which is a literal translation from the French. A native English speaker would have said - It's my native tongue.

But having a Canadian accent in Europe is a lot of fun. The Brits can't place it at all, and they try to make me talk as long as possible in order to try to figure out where I'm from. I guess accent is very important to them. I definitely don't sound American, but they aren't sure if I'm British either. They should realize that overly polite English-speaking people are from Canada ;-)


Posted by: Michele on September 6, 2006 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

Or Baruch Spinoza, for that matter :) Who is kind of the patron saint of modern European cultural attitudes, not to mention post-Kantian Continental philosophy ...

The way I like to view it is this: When you're dealing with a dominant culture and an influx of immigrants with a substantially different set of cultural assumptions, there are essentially three models.

To grotesquely oversimplify, they are: 1) Dutch multiculturalism, 2) French strict assimilationism and 3) American pluralism.

I think I understand the thrust of what you're saying to be that the Dutch model is something of a cop-out. It promises an integration that's not strictly possible by severely ignoring cultural dissonances until they bite you rather savagely on the ass, as they did with the van Gogh incident and the cartoonifada.

The French method is pre-emptive, but it's similarly flawed by attempting to universalize the goals of cultural assimilation while simultaneously setting the bar too high. Here you also get scads of denial about the existence of ghettoes -- brought out by an intense French cultural chauvinism. Oh no, we aren't like *America*. Out of this you get the car-b-ques of last year. No, but you see it's really really *nice* drab public housing ...

One of the few things that I admire America for over Europe (shameless Europhile that I am) is that our approach to immigration has always been much better. Sure, some of this is for structural reasons; America doesn't have a colonial legacy to be responsible for, and we've always had much more land to settle people in. But I think it's a good thing that we don't force Muslims to shed the outer signs of their faiths. We don't genuinely care what religion people practice provided they abide by our laws, pay taxes and eventually learn our language. We allow immigrant groups to serve as support groups, which is infinitely better that having the government do this. Consequently, the threat of Islamist separatism is very low here compared to Europe.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK
The Europeans I have described this North American custom to have been amazed by the fact that nobody takes the whole bowl

I've seen people take the whole bowl.

Course, I've never seen more than about 4 pennies in the bowl. Given their main purpose (rounding out register transactions so that people don't have to dig for pennies or bother with pennies), taht's not surprising. In Europe, apparently, the response to the same pressures that lead to this in Finland and the Netherlands has simply been to stop using 1- and 2-eurocent coins for most purpose (there are periodic efforts to get rid of the US penny entirely, but it has failed so far each time.)

Posted by: cmdicely on September 6, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Michele:

Well, waitaminute -- don't you have a variety of Canadian accents? Surely the Maritime Provences produce a different accent than all those cowboy-types in Alberta and Skaskatchewan ...

And then there are Quebecois who speak English as something slightly less than their mother tongue ...

There must be a Babel of English accents at least as significant as America's Southern drawl or an English Northumberland brogue ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Michele:

And sheesh, a pathologically polite English speaker could be from Minnesota or Wisconsin :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't really noticed a difference in accents in Canada except from Newfoundlanders and French-Canadians.

As for people from Minnesota, sorry, but they sound American - very nasal.

I never did understand why so many white Americans have that nasal voice.

It's 1:30 a.m. here so gute Nacht!

Posted by: Michele on September 6, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

G'night, Michele.

This might get back to the thread topic, in that the key variable, at least for European as opposed to Asian languages, might be the nasal whininess rather than vocal pitch per se.

Of all the folks on this thread who've complained about the squeaky female voice syndrome, save for this trait in native Japanese, it seems to be associated with nasality. The archetype is Moon Unit's Valley Girl ...

Nasality of speech surely isn't any physiological attribute, but rather something purely culturally conditioned. Maybe it has to do with that annoying sense of entitlement that Americans have -- like if they whine at people, they'll have more chance of getting their way.

To shut them up if nothing else ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

Rmck1:

Spinoza may serve as an illustration. Spinoza was kicked out of his 'pillar', the equivalent of social death.

This is precisely my point. Traditionally, the Dutch tolerate vertically integrated subcultures. The normative supposition is that they are parallel and equal. In socio-economic fact, they constitute a hierarchy. An individual is assigned to one of these subcultures and is consequently dependant on the social policy towards it, regardless. The assignments are, in practise, involuntary. Generally speaking, these are by birth (the racist implications are -not- fortuitous). Conversely, the Dutch hardly interact with each other as cognizing individuals. They inevitably exchange chit-chat as representatives. The object of the chit-chat is the management of confrontation, not the content of the conversation.The result is a culture exceedingly boring and nasty in life, if historically quite successful.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

ither:

It's hard for me to identify this strictly with the Dutch, though. Take Britain, another maritime country which industrialized rapidly and developed a world trade and finance network second only to the Dutch. And, of course, their colonization and imperial conquest eventually bested all of Europe's.

Do you really consider English culture to be all that vastly different than Dutch culture? I see marginal differences (the famed Dutch "tolerance" seems to go a bit further), but nothing that significant. Britain even went through its Calvinist theocracy stage with Cromwell.

Is the vaunted English politness similarly a mere mask covering for the management of social power relations, as you claim it is with the Dutch?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 6, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

rmcki1:

Well, I've only spent a couple of months in England, but I would say that the social movements of the English remind me more of a salon than those of the Dutch do. For one thing, the Dutch, unlike German speakers, dislike playing with language. They also prefer loan-words to neologisms. Humor is mostly of the bathroom variety.

You are right about Cromwell. Imagine the English Calvinists as triumphant for centuries.

Of course the Dutch and English cultures are similar -- from the perspective of the Italians, Turks and Balinese.

As a last comment -- it's bedtime -- if I had to characterize the Dutch quickly, it would be that while in theory (and occasionally in practise as exemplified by the treatment of the disabled etc.) the Dutch believe in collective responsibility, on a personal level they will not accept responsibility for anything. The Dutch for Calvinistic reasons, to put it another way, do not apologize.

Thanks for the evening.

Posted by: ither on September 6, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I'm very skeptical. Sounds like Kevin is stuck in some 1980's vintage PC when it comes to sex differences.

Neither the excerpt here nor the short commentary at the link say what Kevin says, i.e. that women's voice pitch is mostly cultural. Maybe the book says that -- I haven't read it --but I doubt Kevin has either. All the excerpt says is that there is some cultural variation in women's voice pitch.

Lame Kevin. Very lame.

Posted by: The Fool on September 6, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

When I read about the wonderful Dutch, I guess I find myself recalling the line from Orson Welles' Third Man:

In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock ...

Somehow, all things considered, the good old U S of A seems to me like the best place on earth to be -- and it surely is rightly the envy of the earth.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 6, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

man this ain't too good

Pakistan: We Will Capture Bin Laden If He's Found

Posted by: f2wf on September 6, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

Somehow, all things considered, the good old U S of A seems to me like the best place on earth to be -- and it surely is rightly the envy of the earth.

Except for all the prejudiced know-nothing jerks who live there. The national parks are nice, though. It'd be a great country if they could just eliminate every Republican.

One thing you can unequivocally say for Holland: no Dutch citizen would ever write anything as ludicrously conceited, obnoxious, and implicitly aggressive as the above.

BTW, Michele, I did a double-take of incredulity when you wrote that the Dutch are unwilling to "travel", until I realized that in your bizarre little lexicon, "travel" means "go on tedious business trips". The Dutch, as anyone who's lived there knows, travel obsessively, to Asia, North and South America, Africa and everywhere else; the only people in the world who out-travel the Dutch are the Israelis.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 6, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Pakistan: We Will Capture Bin Laden If He's Found

That would be like John Wayne pursuing the bad guy...who is caught by a supporting player.

Posted by: Vincent on September 6, 2006 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Somehow, all things considered, the good old U S of A seems to me like the best place on earth to be -- and it surely is rightly the envy of the earth.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 6, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Toto, there's no place like home . . .
It's when the Repubnuts try to impose the same thought on the rest of the world that it all gets a little sticky. No, there are plenty happy where they are; and even happier if "the good old US of A" would leave them be.
Help is nice without a commercial agenda.

I've known a few older Dutch men, and they have been opinionated, biased, and racist. But 4 is no poll.

=============
Me? I'm just a sucker for the intelligent, attractive mezzo. Squeaky is not it.

Posted by: notthere on September 6, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Japan. The squeaky voices here annoy me to no end.

I think it's because Japanese women know they have to act weaker than men to get married, and Japanese men are in general so weak that the women essentially have to overcompensate. Of course, once they're married, the voice drops and the claws come out. :)

Posted by: zak on September 6, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

One thing you can unequivocally say for Holland: no Dutch citizen would ever write anything as ludicrously conceited, obnoxious, and implicitly aggressive as the above.

First, bite me.

Second, what's the expression that comes to mind?

Oh, I remember: they've got much to be modest about.

Look, the US has the best art in the world, the best science in the world, the greatest innovation in the world, the best entertainment in the world, the best comedy in the world, the best of just about everything that is distinctively human in the world.

That's why everybody else wishes they were us and had our cool. In the global human culture, they are on the outside looking in.

Even despite George Bush and the cretins who vote for him.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 7, 2006 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm. I know that I have a medium-pitched voice speaking English, depending on how tired/annoyed/customer-service oriented I'm attempting to be. When I attempt Mandarin, though, the pitch in my voice rises noticeably -- I think it's easier for me to get the falling and rising tones out if I have a wider range to work from, so I start higher than I otherwise might.

Posted by: YooHooligan on September 7, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

The very high pitch of Japanese women's vioces is definately a very practiced affectation. I teach Pre-school Ed. students here and although 95% speak like squeeky sopranos only one in twenty is a true soprano when singing; another 20% strain a falsetto to sing in that range. About one in fifty is a true baritone. The overwhelming majority are altos in the lower register. In fifteen years, I've only had two young women who were baritones that spoke in that range in normal conversation (and they both caught hell for it from every male Japanese that overheard them).
True sopranos who speak in the typical falsetto sound like hyperactive 3-year-olds two full octaves above the non-affected speech of their female friends.

Posted by: joe on September 7, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

frankly:

You are so wrong about American culture it's really kind of sad. America leads the world in the *commercialization* of culture. America is better at *marketing* than other places. And it also means that big-budget art that has to appeal to the masses, like movies, America has a lock on -- though even that's beginning to change.

But when you get to genuine *culture*? Forget it. Take music: virtually every American composer is second rate and entirely derivative of their European education. American art? Well, there was Abstract Expressionism and little else. Literature? There are some great American writers, but they don't substantially outshine writers in other nationalities. Certainly we have no lock on the Nobel Prize or even the Pulitzer when it comes to literature. Science? We're losing our lead, especially to Asia. And applied technology -- you don't even want to *go there* ...

Sure, there are a couple unique American art forms. Jazz, for one. Probably our most significant gift to the world (notice, though, how so many American jazz artists had to migrate to Europe to make a living in the 60s and 70s). And there are a few American originals in music: Harry Partch, Henry Cowell, Conlon Nancarrow, Charles Ives (my personal favorite, Roger Sessions, was thoroughly European-trained). And then the hybrids in more commercial fields, Lenoard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim. When you get to Gershwin and the like, you're back into Tin Pan Alley and jazz ...

But rock? Forget it. Americans invented rock 'n' roll, and then the Brits quickly *re*-invented it and have dominated the field ever since. The only two genuine American innovators in rock music were Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. Elsewise, all progressive music comes from overseas.

But we excel in salable schmaltz and drek. Sure, we can sell it all over the world -- they don't call it aiming for the lowest common denominator for nothing. But don't count Bollywood out; they produce more movies than we do and play to a bigger audience which is growing. Our movie audience is shrinking.

To say that everything else "that's human" comes from America is to exhibit a cultural chauvinism that's truly wince-inducing. Obviously *you* relate to it, because *you're* American and *you* speak English nicely. What that says beyond your own particular biases is, to be honest, difficult to fathom ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 7, 2006 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

It would have been *really* cool if your mom or dad came from an entirely different continent.
---------
六合彩

Posted by: michael on September 7, 2006 at 5:26 AM | PERMALINK

Japanese women's voices also go down with age and go down in all-female groups when no one else is around.

(Anyone who thinks Japanese women are sweet and demure--HA!)

Posted by: tzs on September 7, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I have a really highly pitched voice.

Posted by: Jay on September 7, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

The comment on American culture has its elements of reality, but it's weird when discussing the Dutch - who have a better appreciation of the best of American culture than do most Americans. More Dutch have deeper knowledge of even the most obscure American musics than I've run into anywhere else in the world. Of course, their knowledge of European and world musics is also extraordinary, as is their acuity of the visual (as it's always been). The Dutch speak well, but also keep language (and prescriptions dependent on it) at arm's length - as Svetlana Alpers showed in her comparison of the difference in the relation of image to language in classic Dutch as compared to Italian art.

As for the historic Calvinism, that was always taken with a grain of salt - as is evidenced by the period paintings presenting various sins and virtues. In the Dutch Golden Age, the most popular manual on how to live recommended marrying a woman who'd already had a child - evidence of valuing fertility, sure. But also evidence of a practicality of morality nothing like Puritanism.

Posted by: Viktor Runeberg on September 7, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I was quite surprised to find that Dutch had many words of French origin. I would never have imagined that. I would have thought it was more like old German.

Posted by: Michele on September 7, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Viktor Runeberg:

Very nice post. I completely agree that Europeans generally (and I'll take your word on the Dutch specifically) have a much more finely-honed appreciation of true American culture than do Americans. Americans *consume* culture, they don't actively appreciate it -- something which takes study and contemplation. You know ... work. Americans (in that cultural legacy of Calvinism) wall off their work time and expect on their off-hours to be *entertained.*

It's truly difficult to imagine how jazz would have survived at all in the 60s without staunch European patronage, when it was splintering off into the art musics of free jazz and progressive bop, and big bands were no longer financially viable nor, as purveyors of dance music now played by electric combos, culturally necessary.

Europeans have *always* loved jazz, and patronized and supported American jazz muscians -- innovative and otherwise -- when their home country made it almost impossible for them to earn a living.

The Netherlands (like Denmark and Norway) have a vibrant jazz scene. Even the corny English Dixieland "trad jazz" scene keeps old musical duffers out in the clubs making music to appreciative audiences.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 7, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Michele:

Well, this thread had me look The Netherlands up on Wikipedia. The medieval Kingdom of the Netherlands included parts of northern France (as well as, of course, all of Belgium and Luxembourg). "The Netherlands" just means the Low Countries -- famously by negative elevation relative to sea level.

Dutch isn't the only language spoken, either. Frisian is spoken in a northern provence.

And you did know, I'm sure, that Holland is only two provences of The Netherlands, which nonetheless even the Dutch conflate with the whole country, because it includes the major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 7, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Did you know that the Netherlands had a large prosperous and fairly stable middle class dating back to the 1500s? Could be that contributed to this small wonder of a country.

Posted by: JMe on September 7, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

JMe:

They were the first truly capitalist country, with the first stock exchange and the first global trade network.

As Max Weber discusses in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the Calvinist ethos of prosperity without ostentation (as an outward-and-visible sign of an otherwise unknowable Grace) had much to do with it.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 7, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

But as Michele and ither note above, they probably cultivated eariler than most places all the obnoxious traits of the small-minded and provincial bougeoisie that Marx and the rest loved so much to go off about ...

Middle-class prosperity carries with it certain cultural downsides as well.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on September 7, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

The vocal affectation in question may be an adaptation to the Japanese feminine form. The classic form, notwithstanding recent height developments, is not very shapely. To differentiate from a male form which concomitantly lacks notable masculine features, the female may feminize herself by participating in the culturally accepted pattern of raising her voice. Historically, the sex differentiation has also been accomplished through dress, to distinguish the sexes from a distance. The bright-colored, modern interpretation is exhibited in the childish manner of the female dress pattern, especially that of Japanese women in the prime child-bearing age range.

Posted by: jxc137 on September 7, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Taiwan and was taking a flight to Seattle that stopped in Japan.
The Taiwanese flight attendant (female) gave the safety info in Mandarin, English and Japanese.
Normal speaking voice in Chinese and English, then soared through the roof in Japanese.

Posted by: MikeN on September 8, 2006 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Also: this is one more data point demonstrating why the Netherlands is the best country in the world. It's more than just the tulips."

Very kind. Not true, but still very kind :)
Tulips actually were imported from Turkey and most of the current flowers are grown in the UK - we mainly do bulbs :)

My foreign husband keeps remarking about how many Dutch women have short hair, and how rare skirts are, so I guess the Dutch cultural image of femininity is less extreme, which might have an impact on voice pitch. My husband actually speeks in a higher voice when he speeks Dutch (his native tongue is British).

General stereotype of the Dutch would have to include 'practical and pragmatic' to be even near accurate, but other than that we have a hugh variety of cultures in our little country. Controversial values like homosexual marriage and euthanasia are supported by big majorities of the population, but we still have a very strict bible belt. The kind that does not even *have* a tv, and where recently a student was refused by a teachers collage because his sister wore trousers and his parents had internet access so he obviously wasn't protestant enough.

Michelle: dismantling the teabags was done to protect the environment. Dutch on the whole hate waste, which is a calvinistic inheritance I guess. That gives us the reputation of cheapskates, but it is hard to explain the difference between wanting value for money and not wanting to pay full price. Showing off (and that includes self promotion) is seen as rather rude, so big time spending is frowned upon - another calvinist inheritance. At the same time we give very generously to all kind of charitable goals and organisations, both via government and via the public.

If you want to point at the black pages in our history there are plenty of opportunities. Sbrenica however should not be among them. First of all: the government did not step down because they felt responsible for what happened there, but they stepped down because they were responsible for sending our troops into that impossible situation and should have known better. The government is responsible for the deployment and thus the lives of our soldiers, and with responsibility comes accountability. Secondly: Sbrenica was much more complex than most people realize. 400 Lightly armoured soldiers with 16% of the normal amount of ammunition and months of living without fresh food cannot properly defend 42000 people from an incoming army. Especially when their mandate is that they can shoot but only to defend themselves, not the population.

Posted by: Dutchmarbel on September 8, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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